Saints coach 'stunned' by year-long suspension (Updated 1:50 p.m.)

March 21, 2012 

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is "stunned" by the a year-long suspension without pay handed down this morning by the NFL as a result of its investigation into the team's bounty program, according to sources who have talked to the coach.

Payton's suspension, which begins April 1, is just part of the punishment released by the league today as a result of its investigation into the bounty program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. General Manager Mickey Loomis will face an eight-game suspension and $500,000 fine for the 2012 season.

According to WDSU, Payton's suspension will mean he will forfeit about $8 million in pay.

FOX Sports reporter Jay Glazer said he spoke with the coach, who said he was "stunned."

The Saints also were fined $500,000 and will lose second round picks in 2012 and 2013. The team said it will not comment on the suspensions, but the NFL is expected to answer questions later today.

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is said to have run the program, has banned from the league indefinitely.

The AP reports that Commissioner Roger Goodell will review Williams' status after the upcoming season and consider whether he can return to the league.

Schefter also reported that assistant coach Joe Vitt has been suspened six games without pay and fined $100,000.

Discipline for any individual players who were involved will be announced at some point in the future, the league said.

The NFL spelled out Williams' involvement in the program. According to a release from the league, he helped fund the pool that rewards came from, in addition to being the architect of the scheme.

Williams and Vitt also "misled" the league in its attempts to investigate the program, and Williams kept the program going in 2010, league said.

In addition to the fines and suspensions, Goodell also instructed all clubs today to certify that no such program exists at any NFL team, the league said in a memo to all clubs.

Goodell directed the principal owner of every NFL team to meet with the head coach and confirm that the club does not operate a similar pay-for-performance or bounty program and to instruct his coach that no such program is permissible and that if such a program exists, it must be terminated immediately. Each principal owner and head coach must certify this in writing to the commissioner by March 30.

“Bounty programs have no place in our game,” Goodell said in the memo. “They are incompatible with our efforts to promote sportsmanship, fair play, and player safety."

The memo also states the clubs will have to recertify that no such programs exist every year under the league's "Integrity of the Game Policy," which will be modified to include specific references to such bounty programs.

The prohibition on pay-for-performance programs includes not just “bounties” but any form of non-contract bonus payment. Owners and head coaches share the responsibility for ensuring adherence to these rules and for promoting player safety and the integrity of the game.

The Sun Herald will have more on this story as news develops.

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